Becket’s martyrdom is chronicled for all to see in a stained glass window in France.
This month the British Museum is opening Thomas Becket: Homicide and the Making of a Saint after an extended delay. Essentially the most colourful centerpiece of the exhibition is touring from Canterbury Cathedral. It’s a journey of solely 60 miles, however this stained-glass window has not left the premier cathedral of the Church of England for 800 years.
Canterbury Cathedral grew to become Anglican within the sixteenth century, and there was a lot destruction of sacred Catholic vestiges thereafter. The home windows depicting St. Thomas weren’t vandalized, in contrast to his bodily stays. These have been certainly not the one memorial to this martyr and statesman. If the British Museum had traveled a bit additional, it may have chosen scenes of St. Thomas from a wide range of French church buildings.
Chartres Cathedral’s memorials to St. Thomas
Chartres Cathedral is usually thought of to have the best medieval stained glass in existence. There’s a whole lot of it – greater than twice the quantity as in Canterbury. The French glass has colours that stun Twenty first-century guests as a lot as they did within the thirteenth century. The so-called “Chartres blue” is a shade of cobalt so radiant it could actually scale back onlookers to tears of celestial pleasure.
The entire of Chartres was controversially restored not too long ago. The partitions grew to become as shiny as they have been throughout the Center Ages. There have been many complaints from guests. The home windows additionally grew to become brighter, and there have been fewer complaints about that.
Essentially the most shocking side of those home windows is how such an English saint is commemorated so eagerly in France. The Chartres window is about six toes taller than the 20-foot-high Canterbury model. When the Chartres window went up, there weren’t the identical nationwide concerns as at this time. A lot of France was nonetheless the area of Norman dukes who had crossed the channel to overcome England. They held on to their French territory, and for a lot of generations most well-liked to talk their very own language too.
Due to Becket’s confrontations along with his king, Henry II of England, he went into exile in France twice. The individuals there loved his presence a lot that after his homicide by the henchmen of King Henry, it was greater than Chartres that commemorated him in stained glass. Angers Cathedral was one other, and Sens Cathedral did so on a bigger scale It was in Sens that Becket met Pope Alexander III, who later declared him to be a saint.
The Becket window: medieval truth-telling
The Chartres home windows are extra spectacular than Sens, Angers – or Canterbury. They present St. Thomas Becket’s life and demise alongside many different saints, together with St. Thomas the Apostle. Becket’s window tells the entire story, with particular emphasis on the time he spent in France. From his disagreements with Henry II, to consecrating a (French) church and baptizing a (French) child, to his martyrdom by the hands of 4 (Anglo-Norman) knights, it was greater than the lifetime of a holy man; it was the largest information merchandise of its period. For a king to kill his former good friend, chief administrator and main churchman on the altar of a cathedral was an abomination.
King Henry would spend the remainder of his life making amends, together with public penance. The home windows of their totally different areas type a really colourful document of an occasion that shook the entire of Christendom. Being very excessive up, they’re troublesome to see of their unique settings. We needs to be grateful to the British Museum that it’s exhibiting the Canterbury Cathedral stained glass at a greater peak for these with poor, trendy eyesight.